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What is True Love?


Love is sacrifice and self-giving


On this month of hearts, try asking your child: “What is love?” Your preschool child will probably say that love is caring for one another, showing concern or sharing, while your teenager might say that love is a strong feeling of attraction toward another person.  However put, you will find a positive theme behind the answers; that love brings nice, and fuzzy warm feelings.


In many instances, love is indeed accompanied by delightful feelings.  But as your children enter into a relationship someday thinking that love equals positive feelings, they will be in for a confusing ride.  For in the midst of love, there will almost certainly be stormy, unpleasant periods.


Often, performing loving acts towards a loved one feels good and comes naturally. But sometimes, self-interest can masquerade as love. For example, a girl who ‘loves’ her boyfriend may really be more concerned about the support and encouragement she gets out of the relationship than his welfare. It is hard to believe that true love exists in this kind of relationship because it is rooted in the thrill of being ‘loved’.


True love is much more than feelings.  It is essentially a decision, an act which originates in the will.  It follows then that it is constant and consistent in its action towards the beloved. It can be a decision to do something even when you don’t feel like doing it, such as a parent getting up in the dead of the night despite a long day, to feed a hungry baby.  Or it can be a decision deny oneself, such as giving up an activity for personal enjoyment, in order to spend more time with the family.


Love makes a gift of self – the gift of one’s time, energy, support. This gift of self requires a willingness to make sacrifices for the other. True love really shows itself when the selfless action is unaccompanied by these warm and fuzzy feelings. Furthermore, the gift of self must be for the good of the loved one.  For example, a parent must balance giving in and with-holding a child’s request. A parent that constantly gives in to a child results in a spoilt, selfish and socially handicapped individual. However, the process of loving the child in an authentic way involves rearing the child which includes little sacrifices each day, consistently and patiently minding the interest of the child, even at the expense of clashing wills or tantrums.


The love of a parent is the child’s first experience in understanding the nature of true love. It requires sacrifice, and self-giving. It would not hurt to a cheerful heart either, especially in the midst of confrontation and disagreements. However, true love always bears fruit and it is the love of a parent that the child can internalize what it means to be loved and to truly love.

John Ooi is a father of six children. He writes regularly at It takes a Village to Raise a Child e-newsletter. Article is reproduced with permission.

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